Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Epic Aesthetic Experience

Hello Everyone,



To briefly introduce myself, my name is William and I live in Toronto.



Alluding to the title of this "Listserve" post, I argue that the ‘epic aesthetic experience’ encompasses a multitude of personal events, from which I associate these memories with art gallery visits. I can only disclose that the art gallery continues to be a major source of therapy – quite literally. Before the aesthetic magic, I lived in Peterborough, Ontario (Canada).



In July 2012, I found myself at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Through happenstance, I discovered this quaint self-portrait. I said to myself, “I will be seeing a lot of you this year.” Located on the main floor of the gallery, relatively adjacent to a Chagall painting, I could only feel the “seeing a lot of you” vibe in the near future.



Over the course of 2012 and 2013, I experienced an incredible exhibition synchronicity at the Art Gallery of Ontario, here in Toronto, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. I will let you, the reader, figure out to which exhibition I refer. My personal distinctions, at the time of exhibition, were that I reveled (“lived”) at the AGO, and close family lived in Atlanta.



This painting of Albright-Knox origin travelled to Toronto and Atlanta for this travelling exhibition. I will never forget my amazed surprise to see the SAME painting on its own wall at the AGO, after having seen it at the Albright-Knox. At the High, this portrait complemented a series of the artist’s self-portraits as part of her oeuvre.


A year later, after having enjoyed a pleasurable summer in Atlanta, I found myself back at Albright-Knox in September 2014. I not only made the official move to Toronto, but the painting also coincidentally returned. Nevertheless, I said to myself, “WHOA.”



The dots are all connected. Thank you for reading.



Wishing all of you well,

William
breretonwilliam[AT]gmail.com
Toronto (Canada)

PS. Spoiler hint: my story pays homage to a celebrated Mexican painter.

Friday, February 27, 2015

I'll Keep It Brief

Should I propose to my girlfriend?

Have a good day,


Emily
Emily.in.Cambridge[AT]gmail.com
U.S.A.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Life of Stories

A Life of Stories

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and, finally, prepared herself to walk through the door. She rose slowly from the divan and, as she moved across the small room that had been her sanctuary in the City of Peace for one thousand nights, she took one more moment for farewell. The sumptuous carpets, exquisite wall hangings, and heavy perfume here obliterated her memory of the spare rooms that long ago she had shared with her sister and their father, the king’s vizier.



When she reached the door, she looked back to the book one final time, though she knew all too well it had nothing more to offer. The gilt on its cover reflected the candlelight, winking as if to offer her encouragement. She breathed in slowly to settle her mind, then turned and began her journey down the shadowed hallway to the chambers of the King.



The book had provided her with one thousand stories, one thousand stays of execution, one thousand chances to see the dawn break. She had never discovered how the book had come to be hidden among the pillows, waiting for her to feel it, hard beneath her as she sobbed on the divan that first lonely day in the palace. The stories in that book had saved her life, and their characters had become her only friends.



She had spent the thousandth day combing through the book in case a story had escaped her notice, but the story of the night before had been the final one. Tonight, if there was to be a story that would extend her life for another day, it would have to come from within her.



On other nights, she had wished for the escort that had accompanied her in the early weeks of her imprisonment. But tonight she was thankful for the chance to be alone with her thoughts, tortured as they were. After the thousand wondrous tales in the book, what story could one with a life as inconsequential as hers possibly hope to tell?



Equidistant between her room and the King's chambers, the lone window in the hallway let in a beam of silver moonlight that made irrelevant the feeble golden candlelight from the wall sconces. For the first time in a thousand nights, she was not desperately repeating the book's story in her head as she moved toward her fate. With nothing memorized and everything to lose, she gazed up at the moon, and as she did so a story began to take shape. She dared to stand there for several moments, taking strength and, yes, affirmation from the moon as she felt, rather than thought out, the plot. For the first time, there was no need for hours of memorization; this story was seared onto her heart.



As she crossed the threshold of the king's chambers and bowed low before him, servants scurried to adjust candles and refresh food and drink. Like other nights, the two children she had borne the king were at his side, unaware that any night of storytelling might end with their father’s order for the execution of their mother. But she knew that this would not happen tonight. She stepped into the middle of the room, smiled at her king and their children and, finally, began to tell her final story.



"Once upon a time, in the City of Peace, a great king commanded his vizier to bring him a virgin each night until there was but one the land."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Doubt and Space

When I was a kid (I tend to imagine I was 12, but I might have been 10 or 13) my dream was to become a philosopher. I had read some of Jostein Gaarder children’s books and an intro book on Kant. I was taken by it, my mind came to it easily and hungrily, and it felt important.

I don’t know when or how I came to feel that this would not be a feasible or acceptable future to aim for. There is no one moment I can point to that set me off course, but when I went to university, I didn’t study philosophy. I didn’t even consider it. I studied other things, for reasons that I thought were right, reasons like usefulness, security, some vague notion of respectability. I studied things which had fixed paths into the future, clear directions for what I would do and who I would become. I say things, plural, because I couldn’t settle down. Whereever I was, I wanted out, I changed paths several times. None of the choices lasted very long before they got eaten up at the edges by doubt and listlessness.

I’ve never been very good at being sure. I question the most basic things, up to and including life itself. It’s a habit I’ve never found a good use for, it has mostly served to make my life difficult. Perpetual doubt is not a comfortable state of mind, but I don’t think that there is any certainty out there in which I can find an easy rest.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was also one of those kids who were seriously fascinated with space. You know, the kind of kid who talks with endless enthusiasm about galaxies and black holes, the idea that the stars you see are so far away that by the time their light reach you they might be long dead, etc. The vastness, the overwhelming numbers, a scope that made me dizzy, thinking of it gave me a joyful vertigo.

Even now, I often revisit the following series of thoughts: We are made by the same stuff as the rest of the universe. We are about 7 billion consciousnesses walking about on a relatively tiny globe, talking and thinking and observing ourselves and the universe, while at the same time being a part of it. In every one of us, part of the universe is conscious, is aware: We are the universe observing itself. I find both comfort and awe in this shift in perspective.

I am now finally and slowly making my way back to some incarnation of the dream I had when I was a kid. It doesn’t offer a clear path forward, and I am not sure if I am any more certain of my choice now than I have ever been. But I think it’s time I gave that 12-year old a chance. Wish me luck.

Thank you for all the stories. I would love to hear from you, to hear how you deal with uncertainty, and what you think is true and important, then and now. Feel free to mail me or talk to me on twitter, I'm @mareinna. I wish you all the best.


Marianne
saxifraga.oppositifolia[AT]gmail.com
Norway

PS.
In times when I’m short on meaning or will I keep coming back to David Foster Wallace’s speech “This is water.” I recommend it, it's on youtube.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Time

Wow, like many of you have probably though, I never imagined I would win this and get a chance to speak my mind to the 25,000 or so people subscribed to it. Thats a .00004% chance of being picked! I'd better make it good I guess...

What I wanted to talk about was my current perspective of time. I feel like I'm at a moment in my life where time seems to be speeding up at the rate of Moore's Law. After spending 3.5 years at The University of Texas at Austin, I am about to spend my last semester of college at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. I've been waiting my whole life to travel to Australia, so I am feeling a hodgepodge of emotions right now. It could be described as a mixture of excitement, impatience, nervousness, sadness, and a tiny desire to stay at home where I know I will be comfortable. Whatever I'm feeling, I'm ready.

Within the month of returning from Australia, I will be moving to San Francisco (from Dallas, Texas) with my girlfriend and starting my first job. I think this fact is what makes it seem like time is moving in light speed. Moving in with the GF, living in a new, bustling city, starting a big boy job, taking care of my own finances. It's a lot to take in when it seems like just yesterday I met my wonderful girlfriend of 4+ years (we are high school sweethearts).

It certainly feels like a whirlwind of time right now, but I can't wait to see my personal growth (knock on wood) at the end of it.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time to read my little spiel (I never actually knew spiel was spelled like that till this moment). If you are a traveler, someone from Sydney, someone from San Francisco, or anyone that wants to get in touch please do email me. After a stint of using AirBnB's while traveling, I have found that I love talking to and meeting strangers!

Last note, housing in San Fran is pretty daunting.. Any tips and advice on finding a place is more than welcomed and appreciated :)


Cheers,

Jimmy
jcao1992[AT]yahoo.com
DFW airport going to Sydney, Australia

Monday, February 23, 2015

Falling Off a Cliff

When I was in school, I was very busy with sports and entrepreneurial ventures. Although I did very well academically, I never had time for, or interest in, reading for pleasure. I read the absolute minimum necessary for school work and always for the purpose of getting a good grade. Certainly not for pleasure. Because I never developed the habit of reading in my youth, I never read as an adult either (it probably didn't help that my wife is not a reader).

I am 48 years old now and a few years ago, I started to realize that I was really missing out on a lot by not reading for enjoyment (as opposed to reading for work). I started to ask friends for book recommendations and began reading for just 15 minutes or so each night before going to sleep. And more on the weekends. I am a slow, plodding reader and I fall asleep often if I read too much, but I am really enjoying it. Without sounding trite, It's like a whole new world for me! I have read fiction, biographies, sci-fi, short stories and more. I have been experimenting with a bit of everything.

More recently, I came to the conclusion that I had really missed out by not reading the classics while I was in high school and college. Well, I did read some of them because I had to, but I never read them for enjoyment and I certainly never read them from cover to cover. If Cliffs Notes were available, I read those instead. I'm talking about books like Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick, the great Shakespeare plays, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Pride & Prejudice, Call of the Wild, Red Badge of Courage, etc.

I mentioned this to my wife and for my last birthday, she surprised me with something called the Library of Classics. It's an MP3 player with all of the classic books loaded on it as audiobooks. I have never listened to audiobooks before and I didn't know if I would like them. But I have to tell you, it's even better than reading! The narrators make it so interesting (it's like they're acting it out) and the time just flies. I listen when I go to the gym (which actually makes that more pleasant) and when I drive to the office. And just recently started listening at home on the couch during the weekends. This MP3 player has an amazing selection of audio books and I am loving it! Bonus: I'm also spending less time watching inane TV shows.

So why am I sharing this with you? Why am I using my opportunity as the Listserv winner to tell you about this? Because I want to urge you to read, especially the classics. And if you haven't already, try audiobooks. It has really exposed me to so much that I had been missing out on. I have learned a lot, been entertained and I honestly think it has made me a more well-rounded person. It's also been a good influence on my kids (I'm still working on my wife, though).

Start with just a few minutes a day. Or try the Library of Classics or other audiobooks if you think you would enjoy that more. But give it a try. You won't be sorry.


Phil
Boca Raton, FL

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I'm Lex Friedman

I'm Lex Friedman.

If that name sounds familiar, there are a few possible reasons. Perhaps we're friends; I've even had past friends win The Listserve (Hi, Mark!).

More likely, if you DO recognize by name, it's because it's on the radio all the time. I'm sorry about that.

See, I sell podcast ads for a living, and one of the advertisers I sold podcast ads to wanted to branch into radio ads. And they said, "Gee, Lex, you have a nice voice—would you be willing to do our voiceovers for the radio?" I figured it would be a one-off thing, and, you know, anything for an advertiser!

Since then, I've recorded hundreds of spots. And each of them starts out, "Hi, I'm Lex Friedman."

So when people hear my name, they recognize it, but often don't remember why.

That's fun. Of course, it's more fun to be known and/or remembered for things I'm prouder of than "reading someone else's script into a microphone." I think I'm good at a few things.

I've written a couple humor books: The Snuggie Sutra (which is exactly what it sounds like) and The Kid in the Crib, which is a Dr. Seuss parody. I host a few podcasts. I invented the modern dishwasher. I once wrote a paragraph in the middle of an email with only one lie in it.

We have a new puppy. He's a poodle/schnauzer mix. A schnoodle, if you will. (I will.) His name is Cody. I mention this mostly because my previous paragraph referred to being in the middle of an email, and so I need to add a few more paragraphs to make it true. I can't let my email to thousands upon thousands of strangers contain falsehoods!

I'm a fan of improvisational theater. I took classes for years at the Groundlings school in Los Angeles, eventually — after years — qualifying for the highest-level class, for which there was a waiting list. I sat on the waiting list for a year, and then another. Eventually, my wife and I moved across the country. The next day, a spot opened up for the class. I never got to take it.

I mention all this because my approach to this email has been improvisational. I imagine it shows. But I haven't planned this email; I'm really just plowing ahead. I made up this very sentence as I went along. And this one! The entire paragraph, really. Gazebo! Elephants in an elevator! Schnoodle!

Anyway, I've occasionally given thought to what I would write should I ever win the Listserve. This is not what I expected. I'm okay with that. I hope you are too.


Yours, but mostly mine,

Lex Friedman
ls[AT]lexfriedman.com
New Jersey

Saturday, February 21, 2015

3 months in France

"Not all who wander are lost"...just kidding, no cheesy life advice from me - instead I just want to hear from you all how you think I should spend the next 3 months of my life.The just of it is: I've accepted a temporary position at my job in their office in Paris for April, May, and June. I'll be leaving behind my family and girlfriend and don't know anybody there and don't speak the language. My work will be covering my lodging, so I'll have some discretionary income to make the most of it.

If you have any advice on how I should get the most out of these three months and how how to prevent myself from being too lonely I'm all ears!


Forever grateful,

Andrew
andhudhow[AT]gmail.com
San Francisco, CA

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Tomato for Your Thoughts...

When I was 12 years old and entering middle school there was a distinct shift from the carefree innocence of elementary school. The girls started wearing makeup and straightening their hair. It was then that I realized there was one definition of beauty and I was not it. My lips were too thin. My nose was too round. My skin had been taken over my pimples. My boobs were nonexistent. I was awkward. Not helping my “situation” was that I had the most gorgeous mother. She was the definition of beauty that I strived to be. And there was my sister who was only14 months older, yet had developed much earlier and seemed to have skipped the awkward phase.

This insecurity that began while I was in middle school continued throughout high school and by the time I reached college this insecurity had grown to affect my interactions with people, my focus in school, and my ability to be comfortable being myself...I had put my mom on a pedestal and constantly compared myself to my sister and the models and actresses airbrushed on magazines. This physical insecurity had completely enveloped me and had grown to affect my own self worth- I was internally telling myself that I was ugly, unattractive, not smart enough, not cool enough, not funny enough, not worthy of friends.

It wasn’t until I was 20-21 years old that things started to shift internally. I started “to come into my own” as they say. I met truly wonderful, confident and beautiful friends in college who opened me up to acknowledging my own self worth. I realized I was more than my external self. My inner dialogue which I’ve become even more in touch with recently through my meditation practice changed from negative self talk to positive reinforcement, appreciation and love for myself.

I think everyone has dealt with some sort of insecurity at some point. What I’ve learned is how important confidence is, our internal dialogue, and acceptance. We are all our own worst critic. And that’s by choice. We have the power to change how we think and govern our own thoughts. We have the power to be confident, to love ourselves and to be happy. Someone once told me that we can choose our thoughts like we choose our tomatoes. When we go to the grocery store and we’re selecting which tomatoes we’re going to purchase, we sort through the bin and avoid the discolored or bruised ones. We seek to find that perfectly shaped, bright colored tomato. The same goes for our thoughts, except we’re less selective…We don’t spend as much time choosing our thoughts. We let the negative thoughts seep right in.

There will always be external factors affecting what you may be dealing with internally. But, only YOU can choose how to interpret and react to them. It’s still a learning process for me but let me ask you-how do you channel your inner voice? How have you found your confidence and acceptance of yourself? Please feel free to send me an email at IsabelleLynn2009[AT]gmail.com to share your thoughts.


Lastly,

Be Kind to Yourself.

Isabelle
IsabelleLynn2009[AT]gmail.com
San Francisco, CA

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Of shit, creation, and travel.

Growing up, don’t know why, I couldn’t go No. 2 unless it was at home. Maybe it was my anti-microbes OCD or also the embarrassment of knowing that if I was locked for too long in the bathroom people would know what I was doing (as if others didn’t shit as well). I don’t know how my calculations failed, but during an afternoon English class I got the urge. It was very bad and I couldn’t wait anymore. I asked the teacher for permission to go to the restroom, determined to finally be able to “Go” outside home (only because it was very urgent), and left the classroom in search of a room I had never used before. I remember asking a secretary were it was and she pointed out the direction. Maybe it was because I was nervous or it was just fate, but I couldn’t find the damned place. All the running must have adjusted the contents of my intestines and the urge subsided, which led me to think that instead of going back to the classroom I should head to my grandma’s house in order to take care of business. Grandma’s place was closer to the school than my house, just a short bus ride away. I could’ve walked, but fearing the urge would come back while walking I decided my best option was to get on that bus. Bus arrives. I get in. Sit down. Necessity strikes and, ooops, I couldn’t hold it. I kept looking out the window. I – myself - could not believe what had just happened so I went into what can be described as an out of body experience. I was there, crapped pants and all, but it’s like I wasn’t there. The damaged was not noticed by other passengers for a while, but when one shouted “Driver, it smells like shit in here” it was inevitable. The driver ignored it at first, but then EVERYONE on the bus started complaining and saying “it frigging smells like someone took a dump on the bus”. Driver stops the bus, comes back to where we all are, and like a hound dog starts sniffing for the origin of such fetid smell. He approaches me and politely asks me “Boy, did you shit your pants?” I confirmed. It must’ve been my utter terror and shame showing in my face. He asked me where I was going, decided it was close enough and allowed me to stay on. Everyone complained and I didn’t know where to bury my head. Stop. I descend. Sit is soiled. The back of my pants are soiled and soggy. I start walking to my grandma’s and on the way, at three different occasions, two men and one boy yelled at me “Hey, boy! Did you crap your pants?” Fast forward some 25 years and this story has somehow become a staple conversation at any family reunion. I laugh about it, but it took some years to get over my fears of having a similar episode happen. I can now proudly go No. 2 anywhere. I’ve sat on toilets in +200 cities in 40 countries around the world.



***

How to create anything in your life:



1. Visualize. Concentrate on the end result and the feelings you’ll have once you achieve it.

2. Release.

3. Enjoy the unfolding.



I’ve been practicing this for 15 years now with some amazing results.



***

Travel. Anywhere you can. Getting out there opens your mind, and makes you a better person. You’ll compare at first, but then you’ll realize the beauty that lies in our differences.


STP29
stp29[AT]georgetown.edu
Kyoto, Japan (on vacations, live in Washington, DC)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Make a difference!

Hunger and poverty are very real, and they exist in your backyard. We tend to have blinders on when these topics come up, a “that only happens in big cities, not in my town” sort of mentality. The truth is much scarier. You cannot drive very far in any city or town without seeing these problems with your own eyes. My challenge to you is two-fold; first you must actually “see” the problem. Acknowledge that it is real and exists where you live. Second, DO SOMETHING! You might think that you’re only one person and you can’t make a difference. You are WRONG! Everyone can make a difference, regardless of age or economic status. If you can’t give food or money or clothing, you can still make a difference simply by acknowledging the people that are enduring hunger, poverty or homelessness. Treating these folks as human beings can have a huge impact on them. I have been volunteering with the middle school youth at my church for eight or nine years and one of our projects is to collect items and then go to a local park in our city where our homeless friends congregate and distribute those items. Along the way we engage with them on a personal level through conversations; sometimes they just need someone to listen to them. I have witnessed the most amazing connections happen in these settings! Sometimes the teachable moments just happen: on one trip as we were distributing items someone asked me where I worked. I turned to see one of our homeless friends smiling and asking me again. I told her the names of places I had worked. Turns out she had been a coworker of mine some 18 years ago! Imagine our shock at reconnecting in such a way! You can tell people that homelessness can happen to anyone, but when you see it firsthand like that it really drives the point home.


I have no illusions that one email can change the course of hunger, poverty and homelessness in the world; but if we can make it a little better for just one person then I would count that as a victory!


Never take tomorrow for granted; we are guaranteed nothing in this world!


Gordon Morris
gordonmorrisii[AT]gmail.com
Richmond, VA

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Outside your comfort zone

Hello! I'm Danny, but most people call me by my full name, Danny Dang. I am not sure why, but people have always used my full name, and usually by emphasizing my last name.



My parents immigrated to Canada during the Vietnam War and were placed in Creston, BC. Here, I was born into a small town of less than 5,000 people. We moved to Cranbrook then to Vancouver where I have spent most of my life.


Growing up I was a pretty shy kid. I was terrified of speaking in front of people, or being in situations where I was the focus of attention (eg. presentations). It has taken some time, but I am happy to report that I have gotten over it. I comfortable talking to strangers, leading groups, and presenting on topics that I am passionate about.


I have been fortunate to work in the hospitality and tourism industry where I get a chance to meet and talk to so many different people from around the world. Having the 2010 Olympics hosted in Vancouver helped tremendously. For some reason, I have not traveled outside of North America before. My first trip overseas was at the end of 2014 where I went to Hong Kong and spent several weeks being immersed into the local culture and atmosphere. This trip opened my eyes and my desire to explore the world.


I love exploring the different neighbourhoods of cities and towns, that I end up going back several times. It is probably why I have not ventured out off this continent much (so much to see and eat!). 2015's goal is to see and experience more, which has me booked to go to Italy (Florence) at the end of May. Hoping to see some parts of France, Germany, and the UK as well.


I guess the point of this is to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Put down that smartphone and say hello to someone you're standing in line with! Travel somewhere new and try something different, especially the local cuisine. No need to look for that chain restaurant from back home.


You'll never know who you'll meet and the stories they will share!


Sincerely,


Danny Dang
danny[AT]dannydang.com
Vancouver, Canada

PS. Feel free to send me your favourite travel tips, places to visit, and eateries to try. I still have lots of traveling to do!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Stop what you are doing and go for a walk in the sun right now.

I graduated from university a few years ago and I'm a new-ish teacher. Most days, I love it. I'm realizing that it's a strange job to have for a few reasons.

1. Everyone has an opinion on how to be a teacher. Having been a student once doesn't mean you know how to teach. Do you know how to make a medical diagnosis just because you've been to the doctor a few times? Nope.

2. I think I work too much. I guess the grass is always greener but I can't help but think that it's not worth the time and effort I'm putting in. My work-life balance is totally out of balance. Am I overworked, or putting unnecessary pressure on myself or just not very efficient? Will it magically get better? Where do I even start to fix this?

3. I'm making it up (in a responsible and educated way) as I go. Trial and error, folks.

Now, in total contradiction to #1, I'd love your advice. Why was your favourite teacher your favourite? What does a good teacher do? If you are a teacher, what advice would you have wanted to hear when you were starting out? Hit me up with some wisdom!

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to hearing back from some of you.
Go out and get some sunshine. February sucks, eh?


Anonymous
nacholover70[AT]gmail.com
Toronto

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A prayer for your soul.

Here a nice prayer to say out loud everyday. It will help protect you when
you are down.
This prayer is by JJ DEWEY who is a writer who wrote the IMMORTAL. Just go
to

freeread dot com

Lots of information for the soul. The IMMORTAL book is free to read. So
Enjoy.

Song of the 144,000




We thank you Father

That you have revealed to us your protective universal light;

That within this light is complete protection from all destructive forces;

That the Holy Spirit of Your Presence permeates us in this light,

And wherever we will the light to descend.




We thank you Father

That you fill us with your protective fires of love;

That within this love is complete protection

from all destructive thoughts and feelings;

That the consciousness of Christ is lifted up in us in this love,

And wherever we will the love to be enflamed.




We thank you Father

That You are in us and we are in You;

That through us Your Will is sent forth on wings of power;

That Your Purpose is accomplished on earth as it is in heaven;




That through us Your Light and Love and Power is manifest

to all the Sons and Daughters of Mankind.

Amen


JJ Dewey
FREETHESOULS[AT]aol.com
USA

Saturday, February 14, 2015

For the love of science

Dearest fellow listservers,

At first I didn’t know what to do when I won, because I’ve only been subscribed to the listserve for about three weeks. But I didn’t want to pass over the opportunity.

I’m 19 years old and I’m astrophysics student. I love science, and I think science (education) should play a bigger role in our lives. We’ve got such a beautiful universe, and live on a beautiful earth. But all most of us know about it is the things we learn in primary, middle or high school. We’ve soon forgotten what we’ve learned when we graduate, because it was taught to us by some dusty teacher without any passion.

But there’s more than that! Have you ever seen a picture of the beautiful horsehead nebula? Or felt a rose crumble in your hands after it was frozen with liquid nitrogen? Felt the g-force in a rollercoaster? Cool, right?! Not convinced? I’m inviting you to join me and discover the fun and beauty of science!

I’m planning to make a video showing people around the world having fun, learning or being overwhelmed all because of science. And I need your help. If you want to join me, please send me a video of you, your family, your friends, your class, someone you just happened to walk into on the street, it can be anyone, as long as you’re “sciencing”!

Some examples of what you could do:

-Build a water rocket. There are a lot of tutorials on the internet on how to do this, and I promise you it will fly really high!

-Go to the local observatory if there is one in your area. If it’s open at night you can ask if you could take a look through the telescope and look at a cool planet or galaxy!

-Take a trip to a museum of natural history, where you can see awesome dinosaur skeletons!

-Try to spot animals in the wild and study them for a while, try to make sure they don’t spot you!

-Try to find out how fast objects of different mass are falling. Hint: they will all have the same acceleration! Don’t believe me? Try it yourself!

Of course, you can come up with your own ideas. If you’re not sure whether your idea is good enough (I’m sure it is, I trust you guys), you can always send me an e-mail.

If you’re going to send me a video, please:

-Do it by e-mail, my address is below

-In the subject line, put “SCIENCE VIDEO”

-In the e-mail, tell me where you’re from!

-You don’t have to supply your name, but I’d like it if you do, and of course I’ll credit you

-Don’t film vertically, I’m afraid I can only use horizontally orientated video’s

If you have any questions, please e-mail me as well. You can also send me an e-mail if you don’t want to make a video, or if it depends on the deadline, but want to stay informed about the project (put “INFORMED” in the subject line), I’ll set up a mailing list and eventually send all of you a link to the finished video.

The deadline until when I’ll accept videos isn’t known yet, it will depend on the amount of reactions I receive. It will be published through the mailing list. But if you send it to me earlier than May, It’ll surely be accepted.


Lots of love,

Charlotte Brand
charlottegalaxies[AT]gmail.com
Leiden, The Netherlands

Friday, February 13, 2015

Being 'too busy' is a choice

So, since a few years now I am being educated to be a kick-ass marketeer / projectmanager / concept developer for the event industry. I have a big interest for electronic music culture, as I am a marketing intern at one of Amsterdam’s biggest nightclubs.

In the creative industries - from which the scene I work in is a part of - I hear people tell me and others that they are 'too busy' to meet, go out for lunch, have a drink, work on another project or even answer a simple question awfully often.

Back in the days, I was one of them to blame for the same habit. When people were politely asking me how I was doing, the first answer that came to mind was 'I am very busy', 'I am really tired of all the work I had to do' and some more of those mood-killing statements.

Well, here are some of my thoughts on this subject:

Ø If you really are convinced that you have too little time to live your loco busy life, just come out of bed an hour earlier. Or go to bed an hour later. Anyways, stop crying about it. There is always time.

Ø You are never too busy, you just choose to be busy. It really isn’t about the time you have, it’s about prioritizing. You have got just as many hours in one day as Einstein, Steve Jobs or Nelson Mandela had to achieve what you want to achieve. Get it?

Ø Saying you are ‘too busy’ or ‘stressed-out’ is not really a great conversation-starter. Really, everybody is stressed out these days. It really is a negative way to start a conversation, the only thing you are saying with something like that is that you are super important and very necessary. We all think that of ourselves, you don’t have to put it out there again.

So please, let’s start a little movement here together. How stuffed your agenda may be, how many projects you are on at the same moment and how many sport clubs you have to attend during one week, don’t say you are ‘too busy’. Just come up with something more interesting.

If someone asks you if you have got time to meet, don’t respond with ‘I am too busy’, but respond with ‘that’s not my first priority’. Let’s see how that feels.

When I stopped yelling around that I was too busy, it really helped me feeling less stressed out and besides that it automatically helped me prioritize. Just give it a try!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Is there also a ‘too busy’-culture in your country or the scene where you work in? And how do you feel about this?

All the best,

Wolter de Boer
wolterdeboer[AT]gmail.com
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Dark Room

You take the ferry to the island.
You take the ferry to the island alone because there is no one to go with you, and you are unmoored and without responsibility, and it is a wild and terrible feeling.
You pay your fifteen dollars and you take the ferry to the island.
On the ferry a man talks to you. He is from Peru and he is hitting on you but not so much that you mind. He gives you his business card, but you will never call. This is your first and last conversation, and even though it means something you will never remember the details or his name. It is cloudy but the sun will come out later.
He gives you a keychain. It's gold colored metal and it's a tiny replica of an Incan sacrificial knife. It has the word "PERU" stamped on one side. You give him your soapstone necklace.
You never see him again.
You step off onto the island.
You step off onto the island and into the fort. You pass under the chalk-white stalactites forming from the old concrete, calcium leeching from the building in the rain over centuries.
Someday this will all be dust.
You walk over the dry moat and through the reinforced wooden doors, past the tightly turning granite staircase that goes nowhere now but used to lead to the overpass for dropping shit on the invaders that never came. The yard is in front of you. The sun has come out.
The yard is green and bright and someone is flying a kite but no one picnics here because it's forbidden. The horse chestnut trees are to your right, with the warning sign that says "DO NOT EAT THE CHESTNUTS." You walk across the lawn.
Cannons line the walls above you. Stagnant pools occupy the spaces once held by the enormous weapons that faced out into the open water. The weapons that searched for U-boats. New concrete on old concrete on granite blocks.
This place is haunted.
No women died on this island, at least none that we know of. Two men, deserters, were shot in the 1860s, but no women.
There was no desperate wife who stole the uniform of her enemies and made her way to the kindest and gentlest of all the Civil War prisons, she was not caught and was not hanged in an oversized black robe. The stories exist to scare children.
But she was seen.
You walk across the lawn, past the bakery where you sat on a windowsill and sang to the nothing in the dry moat below. Past the narrow way you explored blindly as a child, at once relieved and disappointed when it deposited you right back where you began. Past the old shells sitting on the lawn, never to be fired.
You walk under the arch, and into the dark hallway.
You put your left hand on the wall, cool with condensation even in the summer months. You can see the end of the hallway faintly, but it is not your destination.
You walk along the uneven flagstones. No flashlights, no cell phones.
You left hand reaches the corner you cannot see, and you turn.
There is a metal gate at the end of this narrow passage that is locked up when school tours are on the island. No one wants to lose a kid in the dark room. It is not locked today.
The room is dark. A single shaft of light falls from the ceiling, a few bricks removed for a chimney. You cannot see the walls.
There is only a small shaft of light, too faint to see by.
You keep your hand to the wall and walk yourself along the far side until you reach the back of the room. The sides are curved, and you worry about hitting your head.
You stand in the corner, facing the light.
You stand alone in the dark.
It doesn't take long for the nameless fear to sink in. SOMETHING is here. SOMETHING is dangerous. You cannot see anything but the shaft of light.
You are not alone.
You stand in the corner and you breathe, because you are not dead yet and as long as you can breathe you will be okay.
You breathe and you tell yourself "I am the scariest thing in this room."
You tell yourself "I am the scariest thing in this room."
And suddenly it's true.
You see by the light of the chimney, the brick walls and the worn flagstones. The open gate and the odd remnants of paint.
You stand and you wait for your meal to arrive.
Someday you will leave this place. Someday you will get back on the ferry and everyone will come home and everything will go back to normal. Someday this will just be a thing that you did, a story for parties. Someday people will laugh with you and think "how delightfully eccentric" and pretend that they would do the same if they only had the time.
But they won't.
They do not walk into dark rooms. They do not look into the mirror when there is nothing to see.
You are the scariest thing in this room.


Anonymous
internetwedding[AT]gmail.com
Boston, MA

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Test of Time

It is said that what sets humans apart is our ability to tell ourselves stories and believe in things we can't see. (Thank you NPR)

That being said, I give all the past and future Listserve story tellers a heartfelt thank-you!

Whether we write on the cave walls, create scrolls, beat on the drums, hear the troubadours, read books, listen to audio tapes, or post our comings and goings on social media, the human condition diary will forever exist. Likely, longer than we will.

I look forward to the daily installment from this global group of scribes, and thank my lifelong friend Marianne for pointing me toward you.

Me? I am a human being human. Nothing more, nothing less. Grateful for all it entails.

May all our stories withstand the test of time. More important, may we all learn from each and every story!

Take good care of yourselves.


Marilyn
Toronto
marilyn[AT]loveofdogs.ca

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I’m still not sure who I am.

…but as a 23-year-old accounting graduate student entering the workforce in September, should I?



Growing up moving around, I was constantly the new kid, constantly trying to fit in. I would do anything to feel like I belonged. Once I finally did, we would move again and I’d have to start over. It seemed like an endless, hopeless cycle.



That being said please don’t get me wrong. So far, I’ve had an amazing, privileged life that I am incredibly thankful for. I just want to be able to answer the question, “if you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?”



For those of you that know who you are, know who you want to be, know where you want to go, please share your story. Tell me what your five words are.



I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

As my grandma would say:

Floods of love.


Molly Flood
mollyaflood[AT]gmail.com
Lawrence, Kansas

Monday, February 9, 2015

it's possible

Connected minds catalyse changes


Nicholas Paim
nicholas[AT]alopra.com
Porto Alegre, Brazil

Sunday, February 8, 2015

HUMOR!!

I am probably one of the few people on the Listserve who just wanted to enjoy everyone else’s insight and messages and not have to share my own thoughts if I was ever selected, but I was, and on my 40th birthday to boot. I’m sure as many of you have learned, life is best enjoyed with a little laughter.

I was trying to think of a humorous story or life experience to share with you, like the time my husband and I accidentally took our three young children to a restaurant, which we hadn’t been to in awhile. Upon our arrival we learned the restaurant had changed ownership and was now a swingers club and animal rescue center...oops:). In life, though, you sometimes receive bad news.

My mother called me while writing this email, breaking the news that a long time family friend was diagnosed with bone cancer. I would ask all of you to say a prayer for her and her family as they go thru this trying ordeal. Like myself, our friend has a deep love of humor and I would love to forward on any great jokes or stories that would brighten her day.


God Bless and thanks for sharing,

Nicole Rapp
nicolewrapp[AT]gmail.com
Littleton, Colorado

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shout out to the productivity freaks

Recently, I've become obsessed, but for once in my life it's a healthy obsession and not something I have to fight (yet).

I'm obsessed with being productive. I turned 30 last year, and suddenly realised that after 10 or more years of unfocused meandering, time is my most valuable resource, and I need to make my days count if I want to feel good about my life in 40 years time. Taking my productivity seriously has changed my life like crazy, to the extent that I'm now trying to launch a small productivity product. Amazingly, I won the Listserve the same week that I'm announcing this, my first product, and that's why I've chosen to write about this rather than any of the other myriad things I could just as easily decide to write about.

I know there are plenty of other productivity freaks out there, so here, for their benefit, is a short list things that you simply must check out if you're into productivity:

David Allen - Getting Things Done. This book is nothing short of amazing.
Things - a suite of Mac and iPhone/iPad apps by Cultured Code. They make being organised much easier, and a lot more fun!
SubZero.email - my new tool for making inbox zero an easy thing to reach and keep. Apologies for the self promotion, it was never my intent when I signed up to the Listserve, but the timing was too fortunate to ignore.

Apologies to everyone else for what might be the most boring email you've received in a while.

Will Pragnell
wpragnell[AT]gmail.com
London, UK

Friday, February 6, 2015

Into the Fire

My name is Zac Gorell and I am a glassblower.

Currently I am working on a new series called 'Beyond Infinity'. In this series I draw from my evolving curiosity about the paradoxes of the self in context. Growth and decay. Seduction and danger. Withdrawal and pursuit. Indulgence and restraint. Chaos and order. Strength and vulnerability. Permanence and impermanence. The structural elements in the sculptures both resist and rely on one another for the pieces to exist.

Being a glassblower never really crossed my mind until one day a friend mentioned that they were going to take a class so I tagged along. Walking into the studio I saw someone taking glass out of the furnace and I was instantly hypnotized by the glowing orange mass of molten glass. I had never seen anything like it and all I wanted to do was find out more about it. Shortly after I signed up and took my first class at a private studio in Cleveland Ohio.


After only a few weeks I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life and I never looked back.

Since that first class in Cleveland I have gotten to travel the world doing glass. From blowing glass on a cruise ship in Europe and the Caribbean to most recently spending a year in Taiwan building a studio and teaching glassblowing to art students at a university. Presently glass has brought me to south Florida where I am working on my new series of sculptures and helping launch a new art center near Palm Beach. If you are in the area I invite you to come check out the glass studio and if not I encourage you to visit your local glassblowing studio. I guarantee you wont regret it.

My website ....
zacgorell dot com


Thanks and feel free to contact me

Zac Gorell
Zgorell[AT]gmail.com
Miami

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Frog Master

I was a pretty good kid. Other than occasional acts of extreme rudeness (hanging up the phone on my father before he was done talking – this is the only time I can remember being shouted at by him) or impulsive, ill-informed choices that scared the crap out of my parents (coming very close to jumping off of the top of our swingset with a plastic bag as my ‘parachute’), I didn’t give my parents or teachers any real cause for alarm or discipline. I was a quiet, dreamy-eyed kid who fidgeted a lot and tried to be kind to everybody.

As I was born with severe allergies to fur, dust, pollen, and the like, we were never allowed to get the dog I so longed for. Forming close relationships with stuffed animals was also out of the question. While I was permitted to drag Brown Bear around during the day (my parents weren’t totally heartless), I have distinct memories of my little guy being gently tugged from my grasp as I pretended to sleep, then watching through half-closed eyes as my mother or father placed him a safe distance away on my dresser.

I was going to have to find another way to fill this hole in my heart.

Fast forward to second grade. It is just after 8 AM, and I am in the middle of a three-seater on the back of the school bus hugging a small plastic terrarium to my chest. Inside of it are small rocks, a few pieces of moss, a dish with water in it, and a frog-- The frog is strikingly colorful—navy blue with bright orange and red markings on its back—and its big, black eyes bulge with fear. It is completely and perfectly still, but none of the kids around me seem to mind this fact.

“Is it poisonous?” they ask.
“I’m not sure,” I answer.
“Is he scared?”
“Yeah, really scared… He trusts me though.”

To the delight of my classmates, my second grade-teacher is totally in favor of putting the frog terrarium on display for everyone to enjoy. She clears a space for it on top of the tables in the back of the room, and for the rest of the day the class is abuzz with talk of the exciting new visitor. Everyone is eager to stop by the little tank and check on how the frog is adjusting to his new environment, and there are so many trips to the water fountain and bathroom that eventually my teacher has to revoke the privilege.

I, too, visit the frog terrarium several times that day: once during lunch, when I’ve come inside to use the bathroom and once during group activity period, when everyone is moving about the room and too busy to notice me move the frog. Each time, someone inevitably notices it and sends a current of excitement through the room.

“He moved! He moved! He’s closer to his water!”
“He must be getting thirsty!”
Each time, I am equally thrilled and relieved.

By the middle of the afternoon, the class’ fascination with the minute movements of my frog has only grown, and finally my teacher makes an exciting proposition. Why don’t we move Mr. Frog to a bigger home, she says. We’ve got an empty old fish tank in the science classroom, so why don’t we just clean it out and give him more space to roam?

Cleaning out the fish tank is the last activity of the day. Surrounded by a class of enthralled seven year olds, my teacher wipes the glass with a damp paper towel and asks for suggestions on how we might fix a loose hinge on the lid. My classmates are full of ideas, but I am silent and sick to my stomach.

Later that day I am lying on the rug, eating coffee yogurt and watching CatDog when my babysitter comes in with the phone in her hand. I didn’t even hear it ring, but apparently my teacher is on the phone.

“Katherine?”

Her voice sounds very soft and far away. I try to pretend I’m not sure what this call is about.

“You’ll never believe what happened to me this afternoon.”

I am standing barefoot in my backyard and the rocks are cool and scratchy on my skin.

“I stayed after school to put the new tank together, and it was all ready for your frog.”

“Oh… you did?” I am feeling very sorry both for her and for myself.

“But then I reached in, all still and careful so I didn’t scare him, and when I touched him—when I touched him, he was made of plastic.”

She falls silent, and I am well-aware that my great trick has come to an end; there is nothing further I can do to keep the frog alive. Unwilling to pursue it any further now that the magic of the situation has been deflated, I am backed into the inevitable corner of The Truth. Eager to escape this mortifying conversation as soon as possible, I stammer, in what feels like a complete cop-out,

“But… but… the people at the pet store said it was real..”

I’m not sure if I’m trying to get out of trouble or whether I am simply too embarrassed to admit to the tale I’ve told. Either way, my response has the intended effect of making my teacher stop talking about it. After I say this, the conversation remains gentle and quiet but ends relatively quickly.

Later that week, my teacher calls my mom to express her concern that I am struggling with reality. Her exact words are that I am “having some trouble distinguishing reality from fiction.”

I don’t know if my mom realizes the extent to which I carried The Frog Trick; she is perfectly comfortable with my grasp on reality and is more sympathetic to my obvious desperation for a pet.

Two weeks later, we get a real tree frog. Christened Frisky due to his spastic jumping behaviors, he lives a solid five years and is well-loved by the Frog Master.

Katherine McDonald
kemcdonald11[AT]gmail.com
Oakland, CA

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Losing streak extended (for both of us)

What are you looking at?

Just because my softball team lost over 150 games in a row is no reason to scrunch up your nose at me. You don’t even know me!

I bet your softball team doesn’t have two professional Latinists. I bet your softball team doesn’t drink delicious Grain Belt Premium beer. I bet your softball team doesn’t practice in the dead of winter on a frozen lake in the sub-zero temperatures of Minnesota with no gloves or hats while listening to Polka music!

Is your team sponsored by a local bar featuring an Italian meat sandwich with a racist name? Did your team of 40+ y/o men have a “parent night” where Moms and Dads traveled from other states to receive their complimentary bumper sticker that said “My son plays softball”?

Did you ever have a player get so excited that he ran to third base instead of first? And then kept going into left field and eventually into the parking lot and off to the bar, screaming the entire time? Did that ever happen with one of your guys? Was his name George?

No, for you, it is always about the 150 game losing streak, isn’t it? Maybe you never considered the streaks of blood running down our arms and legs as we put our very own bodies in harms way in the spirit of softball? What about the time Zin broke his nose on the fly ball? Remember that?

No, you don’t remember that because you were playing for some other softball team. One that wins games every now and again. So good for you. I’m proud of you. And your accomplishment.

But I’ll tell you this: I won the list serve lottery on the same day I got my notice that the fees are due for another year of softball and I’ll be damned if one of the emails made my heart flutter just a bit and the other made me more paranoid and angry.

I am a winner, but not the kind either of us want me to be. You want me to be the “write up the cute story about your bad softball team” kind of listserve winner and I want to be the "guy who actually wins softball games" kind of softball winner.

And now as I wrap up this email it looks like neither of us get what we want.

So there.

Bricker
brickersbsqaud[AT]gmail.com
Minnesota

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!" - Audrey

To over 24,000 people (potentially) reading this,

I’m no wordsmith, but I always appreciate great quotes. Below are some of my and my favorite people’s favorite quotes, in no particular order. Feel free to respond with your favorite quote!

“For each minute you’re angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.” – Anonymous

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

“Why don’t they give us things we can actually use? I don’t need a thinner phone. You know what I need? I need a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“Help ever, hurt never.” – Sathya Sai Baba

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“Justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West (Thank you, Laverne Cox, for telling an amazing story here at Duke University last week!)

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” – Wayne Gretzky

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not standing in the light.” – Lady Gaga

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” – Randy Pausch

“I could build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me.” – Taylor Swift

“To dream of the person you wish to be is to waste the person you are.” – Anonymous

“Astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it.” – David McCullough (Listen to his 2012 commencement address at Wellesley High School.)

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you’re a real artist, you follow your intuition and your integrity and you do things because they fill your heart and give you reasons to live.” – Lykke Li

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” – Randy Pausch

“It’s better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly

“I’m not great at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?” – Chandler Bing, Friends

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.” – Dr. Seuss

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. However, if you quit that pain will last forever.” – Eric Thomas

“Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.” – Stephen King

“Be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” – Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights

“Better to be the one who smiled than the one who didn’t smile back.” - Anonymous

Life is good.

#coach1k (Go Blue Devils!!)

Danielle Lefland
daniellelef2[AT]gmail.com
Durham, North Carolina

Monday, February 2, 2015

"We have an infinite supply of information and yet we cannot read.”

I was born under a mountain, by the ocean, in a village of 1500 people in the north of Iceland. After studying (communication design) and working in various places in Europe (all being lovely) I set my sails to North America last summer, packed my bags and moved to Vancouver. Here, they call British Columbia “The most beautiful place on earth”. It’s pretty, don’t get me wrong — but who would ever think they’re entitled to that phrase?

I moved over here to study. After working in the advertising industry for a few years, I felt like taking on new and different challenges. Go a bit more back to a human centred approach. In my opinion, great things happen when you start using design to educate, enlighten and raise people’s interest in certain topics, rather then just to make something for the sake of making pretty things. (Even though that can be fun too).

I’ve always been fascinated by perception, the way our brains work, how we memorise and take in information—which is directly related to my even bigger interest in reading. Digital media has changed all that. We live in a time where distractions abound and never run out. The Internet has had a momentous impact, similar to Gutenberg’s printing press in the fifteenth century, and sparked an information revolution. Information is just a click away and we want as much as possible, as quickly as possible. The so called “linear mind” is now a thing of the past. Reading habits and information processing are changing, with reading skills and comprehension declining simultaneously. The problem is especially apparent with teenage boys all over the world. Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests show that reading comprehension of boys is lower than girls in all 65 countries tested.

So what’s going on? Are books not able to compete to the various interactive, instant-rewarding digital media that surrounds us? If books aren’t able to compete for attention any more, how do they need to evolve? How can we get those kids to dive back into books?

If you feel like sharing any thoughts, advice, or random Björk stories,
I would be most delighted to hear from you.


Have a glorious day!

Bergthora Jonsdottir
bergthorajons2[AT]gmail.com
Vancouver

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Improv is magic

I'm passionate about a lot of things; music (I'm a classical/contemporary clarinet and bass clarinet player by trade), acting, writing, cooking, the environment, teaching, etc, but for me there is a unifying theory to be found in improv. Improvising music and movement has made me a better and more confident performer, but improvising theatre has made me a better and more confident person.

Theatre improv (think "whose line" or UCB) has within it all of the basic elements that you need to be a good and successful person. You know the ones- saying yes and supporting ideas, always having people's backs, paying attention (really paying attention), finding what's working and doing it again and again, being brave enough to burst into song or dance, or just get up in front of people and feel comfortable and even excited speaking. All of the things that a lot of us feel bad at, as if we somehow missed the all-important day in school where they taught everybody how to talk to each other and not be weird about it and we're never going to catch up because of it. I grew up shy and awkward, and improv has made me feel like a real and whole person- I'm happy on stage, I'm happy pushing my own ideas to a group, I'm happy making small talk with strangers, and I'm happy collaborating with artists from any discipline. It's a huge thing.

If you'd like to try something new, I highly recommend an improv course. You'll start with little, easy exercises- saying "yes and" to ideas, maybe playing games where you can only ask questions, alternate saying words with another person, tell a story collectively etc. They all seem little, but they add up to something big, and you'll be amazed at the high you get when it goes well. You'll find yourself responding without censoring yourself, contributing ideas that you can't even remember having, and connecting to your classmates and the characters they create. You might also do some 'long form' things, like playing out scenes and linking them together- this is where the paying attention thing comes in handy! If a course sounds like a bit much, or you don't live near one, try this- say yes to everything (within reason), and then say "yes and"... add something! You'll have a much more positive day, I promise.

Lastly, if you're a performer of any kind- music, dance, anything, learn to improvise. Just do it. It doesn't matter what discipline you're in or whether you strictly need to be able to improvise (lots of classical musicians would wet themselves if you put them on stage and just said go), you'd be amazed what it can do for your practise. I love using improv (along with other tools) to make help fellow musicians and students feel more at home on stage, and play more expressively, and it can work for you too.

I'd love to hear from any improvising people out there, in any discipline, especially if you like to do interdisciplinary work.

Look out for my hilarious improv troupe, improvable (facebook / improvable), we've got some great gigs coming up in London and Edinburgh!

I teach clarinet and offer performance coaching to any instrument (or ensembles) in London UK- hit me up!

Stephen Davidson
stephendavidson84[AT]gmail.com
London UK

p.s. My plan B for this email was to just send vegan cake recipes until I ran out of words. You can also email me for those :)